Source:The New Democrat
“What distinguishes a progressive from a liberal? This is one of the more pervasive ambiguities in contemporary American political discourse.”
From The New Republic
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From Learn Liberty
Before I offer you my own personal definition of progressive and progressivism and there really isn’t any official of progressive and progressivism unlike liberal and liberalism, or conservative and conservatism, I want to lay out what progressive and progressivism isn’t. Even if others believe their so-called progressive values are the real progressive values. And people who disagree with those values are regressive or right-wingers.
Progressives aren’t Liberals and they’re not Socialists either. Progressives and Liberals, share similar values, but Progressives also share similar values with Conservatives, which I’ll explain later. You can be a Liberal and believe that people who are down should be able to get help from to help them sustain themselves in their time of need ( for lack of a better phrase ) and to help them get back up. And you can be a Progressive who believes in free speech, the right to privacy, personal freedom generally, but who isn’t a Liberal more broadly.
And just as important, Progressives aren’t Socialists ( democratic or communist ) and Socialists aren’t Progressives. In many cases the opposite is very clear. One of the most if not most regressive ( anti-progressive ) political philosophies in the world is communism. ( For all you young hipsters who think Communists are cool and communism is cool and wear Che Guevara t-shirts ) When it comes to Democratic Socialists, similar to Liberals, Democratic Socialists share similar goals and in some cases values. The belief in a minimum wage, the right for workers to organize, health care for everyone, that poverty should be addressed, etc. But tend to differ in how to accomplish those goals and don’t have a big centralized welfare state tax hike solution, to accomplishing all those goals.
Again, about what progressive isn’t, you can be a man-hating, anti-Caucasian, Che Guevara and The Weather Underground loving, radical feminist Marxist-Socialist, or just a Socialist but not a Marxist with those other political characteristics. Who believes individualism and property rights are selfish and capitalism and private enterprise is racist, and personal freedom and free speech are dangerous, or you can be a Progressive. Who is forward looking and believes that progress can be obtained through government action, but isn’t looking to destroy or takeover the American Federal form of government with checks and balances and replace it with a socialist government. But you can’t be a Progressive and a Socialist-Communist. They don’t go together and tend to be at odds with each other. Progressives believe in progress through government action. Socialists and Communists, believe in collectivism, whether it’s democratic or communist.
So what is progressive, what are Progressives and what is progressivism? I actually know the answers to these questions, otherwise writing this piece would be a waste of my time.
As I briefly hit on before in the last paragraph Progressives believe not only in progress, but that progress can be obtained through government action. Doesn’t have to be the Federal Government necessarily, we live in a federal republic with a federalist form of government. Which means the states and localities have a role in addressing a lot of these domestic issues. Also doesn’t mean that the Federal Government doesn’t have any role in addressing issues and problems in the country. Again, Progressives are different from Socialists, but also different from Conservative-Libertarians.
One thing that I like and respect about progressivism is how non-ideological and pragmatic it is. Barack Obama should really be the modern spokesperson and father for what progressivism really is in America, because of how pragmatic he was as President.
Progressives like to solve problems in American society. They’re not looking to nationalize this or that, or restrict this current freedom or take that one away and make the country more collectivist.
And this is true going back to the Progressive Era ( which actually was progressive ) to the New Deal of the 1930s, the Dwight Eisenhower Progressive Republican Administration of the 1950s, where President Eisenhower successfully addressed civil rights in America with school desegregation and gave us along with Congress our national infrastructure system. Or the Great Society of the 1960s, as well as smaller but important accomplishments of President Richard Nixon dealing with the environment, President Carter with energy independence, President George H.W. Bush with civil rights, President Clinton with family and medial leave, President Obama with health care. Which I believe is just as important as anything from the New Deal, if not more important.
The first word in progressive is progress and the second word is ive. Maybe someone will someday define ive for me, ( ha, ha) but nowhere in the word do you see socialist, collectivist, communist, feminist, or even liberal. Our most Progressive President’s have been our most anti-authoritarian and anti-communist President’s. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama even with his major campaign against Islamism and ISIS.
I mentioned earlier ( feels like yesterday at this point ) that I would show you something that Progressives and Conservatives have in common. ( Mission impossible to believe, right ) Well, I just did that with the President’s that I just mentioned. The belief in that America has to be both strong at home as well as abroad. That liberal democracy is a great thing that needs to be defended and supported and that authoritarianism whatever the philosophy, needs to fought and defeated. As well as limited government and fiscal responsibility. Before President Bill Clinton, the last American President to have a balanced budget, was President Lyndon Johnson. something to think about when you’re looking at political philosophy and labels.
There’s been a lot of discussion the last few years, more like going back to the start of the Obama presidency, about what’s the difference between Liberals and Progressives, or are they the same thing and what’s the difference between Liberals and Socialists, or Socialists and Progressives, are they the same things. Senator Bernie Sanders, has been labeled as all three or that he’s all three. Which is not true because he’s a Democratic Socialist and a proud one at that.
When you think of Socialist, think of socialism democratic or communist depending on the person. When you think of Liberal, think of liberalism which is about liberal democracy. When you think of Progressive, think of progressivism through government action, but in a limited form. Not government trying to do everything for everybody and trying to run people’s lives for them. Which if anything is actually regressive with all the individualism and freedom that people would lose as a result.